Archive for July, 2011

3 Tips For Hiring a Great Marketing Intern

Marketing InternshipsInterns might be the most under-utilized marketing tool out there. As an Inbound Marketing Consultant here at HubSpot, I rarely spoke with a customer who was accustomed to hiring interns. Only recently did it occur to me that this could be a pretty significant omission in anyone’s marketing plan.

Here at Hubspot, we typically have several interns working on different projects and in different departments. They rotate in and out (typically by season) and are pretty spread out around the office so they can tend to fly under the radar, so to speak.

Last week, however, our interns came together and caused quite scene at our 5th anniversary celebration. That’s what got my attention and that’s when I took notice of a couple of things. First, I hadn’t realized how many interns we had working with us. Though the majority of them work on the marketing team, we will leverage interns anywhere in the company that has a need. The second thing that struck me was the energy and talent they brought to the team. These folks are interns in title only. Though they are here to learn, they also contribute their own thoughts and ideas that often lead to great results for the team.

That’s when I found myself asking the question, why don’t more companies have this built into their marketing plan? Maybe it’s just an honest oversight and lots of readers are nodding their heads as they read this post. Or, perhaps, the value of interns has just quietly increased and lots of folks just haven’t noticed.

To that point, here are some thoughts on how marketers can leverage the power of interns.

1. Interns Can Provide a Ton of Value….If You Let Them

I think there remains a misconception about internships and what they mean to the individuals who partake of them. Internships today are a critical element of learning and career development. It’s not like it was 20 or even 10 years ago when simply landing an internship at a cool company could be seen as a resume builder. Interns today are looking for meaningful work experience that can help them as they launch and build their careers. Whether they are a college student preparing for graduation or a seasoned professional considering a career change, the experience individuals gain during an internship can be a game changer for them. Give them the credit they are due and real, relevant work to do and you’ll see the impact they can make. If you are in need of someone to make copies or run errands, hire a service.  Interns are best utilized when addressing real business needs so you can reach those ambitious goals you’ve set.

Here are a few great ways in which interns can contribute: 

  • Writing blog posts, whitepapers or ebooks
  • Managing social media accounts
  • Testing landing pages and Offers
  • Designing targeted campaigns

2. Expect Temporary, But Hire for Full-Time

If hiring an intern is part of your plan, then the next very important thing you need to consider is the cultural fit. Even though this is likely a temporary position, you are going to want to be certain your interns are of the same ilk as your full-time employees. The plan is to get them right in the mix and contributing to your team, so interview as if you were indeed hiring a full-time employee. You never know. At HubSpot, we have no fewer than 3 full-time employees who started here as interns.

3. Set Them Up for Success

You want to give interns “real” work to do, but remember they are there to learn, so make sure you place them with an individual or group who understands that and can act as a reference and or support system so that everyone wins.

So whether you are in need of marketing help (blogging, running targeted campaigns or doing research) or need help meeting other business goals, consider hiring an intern. It’s a win, win, win. You get the help you need. They get the experience they need and you have one more driven, smart individual educated about your company. Perhaps they will be back as a full-time employee.

Do you currently hire interns? What’s your advice?

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Replicate Google’s Panda Questionnaire – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by caseyhen

Want to avoid the next Panda Update and improve your websites quality? This week Will Critchlow from Distilled joins Rand to discuss an amazing idea of Will’s to help those who are having problem with Panda and others who want to avoid future updates. Feel free to leave your thoughts on his idea and anything you might do to avoid Panda.

 

Video Transcription

Rand: Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to a very special edition of Whiteboard Friday. I am joined today by Will Critchlow, founder and Director of Distilled, now in three cities – New York, Seattle, London. My God, 36 or 37 people at Distilled?

Will: That’s right. Yeah, it’s very exciting.

Rand: Absolutely amazing. Congratulations on all the success.

Will: Thank you.

Rand: Will, despite the success that Distilled is having, there are a lot of people on the Web who have been suffering lately.

Will: It’s been painful.

Rand: Yeah. What we’re talking about today is this brilliant idea that you came up with, which is essentially to replicate Google’s Panda questionnaire, send it out to people, and help them essentially improve your site, make suggestions for management, for content producers, content creators, for people on the Web to improve their sites through this same sort of search signals that Panda’s getting.

Will: That’s right. I would say actually the core thing of this, what I was trying to do, is persuade management. This isn’t necessarily about things that we as Internet marketers don’t know. We could just look at the site and tell people this, but that doesn’t persuade a boss or a client necessarily. So a big part of this was about persuasion as well.

So, background, I guess, people probably know but Goggle gave this questionnaire to a bunch, I think they used students mainly to assess a bunch of websites, then ran machine learning algorithms over the top of that so that they could algorithmically determine the answer.

Rand: Take a bunch of metrics from maybe user and usage data, from possibly linked data, although it doesn’t feel like linked data, but certainly onsite analysis, social signals, whatever they’ve got. Run these over these pages that had been marked as good or bad, classified in some way by Panda questionnaire takers, and then produce results that would push down the bad ones, push up the good ones, and we have Panda, which changed 12% of search results in the U.S.

Will: Yeah, something like that.

Rand: And possibly more.

Will: And repeatedly now, right? Panda two point whatever and so forth. So, yeah, and of course, we don’t know exactly what questions Google asked, but . . .

Rand: Did you try to find out?

Will: Obviously. No luck yet. I’ll let you know if I do. But there’s a load of hints. In fact, Google themselves have released a lot of these questions.

Rand: That’s true. They talked about it in the Wired article.

Will: They did. There have been some that have come out on Search Engine Land I think as well. There have been some that have come out on Twitter. People have referred to different kinds of questions.

Rand: Interesting. So you took these and aggregated them.

Will: Yeah. So I just tried to pull . . . I actually ignored quite a chunk that I found because they were hard to turn into questions that I could phrase well for the kinds of people I knew I was going to be sending this questionnaire to. Maybe I’ll write some more about that in the accompanying notes.

Rand: Okay.

Will: I basically ended up with some of these questions that were easy to have yes/no answers for anybody. I could just send it to a URL and say, "Yes or no?"

Rand: Huh, interesting. So, basically, I have a list of page level and domain level questions that I ask my survey takers here. I put this into a survey, and I send people through some sort of system. We’ll talk about Mechanical Turk in a second. Then, essentially, they’ll grade my pages for me. I can have dozens of people do this, and then I can show it to management and say, "See, people don’t think this is high enough quality. This isn’t going to get past the Panda filter. You’re in jeopardy."

Will: That’s right. The first time I actually did this, because I wasn’t really sure whether this was going to be persuasive or useful even, so I did it through a questionnaire I got together and sent it to a small number of people and got really high agreement. Out of the 20 people I sent the questionnaire to, for most questions you’d either see complete disagreement, complete disarray, basically people saying don’t know, or you’d see 18 out of 20 saying yes or 18 out of 20 saying no.

Rand: Wow.

Will: With those kind of numbers, you don’t need to ask 100 people or 1,000 people.

Rand: Right. That’s statistically valid.

Will: This is looking like people think this.

Rand: People think this article contains obvious errors.

Will: Right. Exactly. So I felt like straight away that was quite compelling to me. So I just put it into a couple of charts in a deck, took it into the client meeting, and they practically redesigned that "catch me" page in that meeting because the head of marketing and the CEO were like okay, yeah.

Rand: That’s fantastic. So let’s share with people some of these questions.

Will: And they’re simple, right, dead simple.

Rand: So what are the page level ones?

Will: Page level, what I would do is typically find a page of content, a decent, good page of content on the site, and Google may well have done this differently, but all I did was say find a recent, good, well presented, nothing desperately wrong with it versus the rest of the content on the site. So I’m not trying to find a broken page. I’m just trying to say here’s a page.

Rand: Give me something average and representative.

Will: Right. So, from SEOmoz, I would pick a recent blog post, for example.

Rand: Okay, great.

Will: Then I would ask these questions. The answers were: yes, no, don’t know.

Rand: Gotcha.

Will: That’s what I gave people. Would you trust the information presented here?

Rand: Makes tons of sense.

Will: It’s straightforward.

Rand: Easy.

Will: Is this article written by an expert? That is deliberately, vaguely worded, I think, because it’s not saying are you certain this article’s written by an expert? But equally, it doesn’t say do you think this article . . . people can interpret that in different ways, but what was interesting was, again, high agreement.

Rand: Wow.

Will: So people would either say yes, I think it is. Or if there’s no avatar, there’s no name, there’s no . . . they’re like I don’t know.

Rand: I don’t know.

Will: And we’d see that a lot.

Rand: Interesting.

Will: Does this article have obvious errors? And I actually haven’t found very many things where people say yes to this.

Rand: Gotcha. And this doesn’t necessarily mean grammatical errors, logical errors.

Will: Again, it’s open to interpretation. As I understand it, so was Google’s. There are some of these that could be very easily detected algorithmically. If you’re talking spelling mistakes, obviously, they can catch those. But here, where we’re talking about they’re going to run machine learning, it could be much broader. It could be formatting mistakes. It could be . . .

Rand: Or this could be used in concert with other questions where they say, boy, it’s on the verge and they said obvious errors. It’s a bad one.

Will: Exactly.

Rand: Okay.

Will: Does the article provide original content or information? A very similar one. Now, as SEOs, we might interpret this as content, right?

Rand: But a normal survey taker is probably going to think to themselves, are they saying something that no one has said before on this topic?

Will: Yeah, or even just, "Do I get the sense that this has been written for this site rather than just cribbed from somewhere?"

Rand: Right.

Will: And that may just be a gut feel.

Rand: So this is really going to hurt the Mahalos out there who just aggregate information.

Will: You would hope so, yeah. Does this article contain insightful analysis? Again, quite vague, quite open, but quite a lot of agreement on it. Would you consider bookmarking this page? I think this is a fascinating question.

Rand: That’s a beautiful one.

Will: Obviously, again, here I was sending these to a random set of people, again which, as I understand it, is very similar to what Google did. They didn’t take domain experts.

Rand: Ah, okay.

Will: As I understand it. They took students, so smart people, I guess.

Rand: Right, right.

Will: But if it’s a medical site, these weren’t doctors. They weren’t whatever. I guess some people would answer no to this question because they’re just not interested in it.

Rand: Sure.

Will: You send an SEOmoz page to somebody who’s just not . . .

Rand: But if no one considers bookmarking a page, not even consider it, that’s . . .

Will: Again, I think the consider phrasing is quite useful here, and people did seem to get the gist, because they’ve answered all of the questions by this point. I would send the whole set to one person as well. They kind of get what we’re asking. Are there excessive adverts on this page? I love this question.

Tom actually was one of the guys, he was speculating early on that this was one of the factors. He built a custom search engine, I think, of domains that had been hit by the first Panda update, and then was like, "These guys are all loaded with adverts. Is that maybe a signal?" We believe it is, and this is one of the ones that management just . . . so this was the one where I presented a thing that said 90% of people who see your site trust it. They believe that it’s written by experts, it’s quality content, but then I showed 75% of people who hit your category pages think there are too many adverts, too much advertising.

Rand: It’s a phenomenal way to get someone to buy in when they say, "Hey, our site is just fine. It’s not excessive. There’s tons of websites on the Internet that do this."

Will: Yeah.

Rand: And you can say, "Let’s not argue about opinions."

Will: Yes.

Rand: "Let’s look at the data."

Will: Exactly. And finally, would you expect to see this article in print.?

Rand: This is my absolute favorite question, I’ve got to say, on this list. Just brilliant. I wish everyone would ask that of everything that they put on the Internet.

Will: So you have a chart that you published recently that was the excessive returns from exceptional content.

Rand: Yeah, yeah.

Will: Good content is . . .

Rand: Mediocre at this point in terms of value.

Will: And good is good, but exceptional actually has its exponential. I think that’s a question that really gets it.

Rand: What’s great about this is that all of the things that Google hates about content farms, all of the things that users hate about not just content farms but content producers who are low quality, who are thin, who aren’t adding value, you would never say yes to that.

Will: What magazine is going to go through this effort?

Rand: Forget it. Yeah. But you can also imagine that lots of great pieces, lots of authentic, good blog posts, good visuals, yeah, that could totally be in a magazine.

Will: Absolutely. I should mention that I think there’s some caveats in here. You shouldn’t just take this blindly and say, "I want to score 8 out of 8 on this." There’s no reason to think that a category page should necessarily be capable of appearing in print.

Rand: Or bookmarked where the . . .

Will: Yes, exactly. Understand what you’re trying to get out of this, which is data to persuade people with, typically, I think.

Rand: Love it, love it. So, last set of questions here. We’ve got some at the domain level, just a few.

Will: Which are similar and again, so the process, sometimes I would send people to the home page and ask them these questions. Sometimes I would send them to the same page as here. Sometimes it would be a category page or just kind of a normal page on the site.

Rand: Right, to give them a sense of the site.

Will: Yeah. Obviously, they can browse around. So the instructions for this are answer if you have an immediate impression or if you need to take some time and look around the site.

Rand: Go do that.

Will: Yeah. Would you give this site your credit card details? Obviously, there are some kinds of sites this doesn’t apply to, but if you’re trying to take payment, then it’s kind of important.

Rand: A little bit, a little bit, just a touch.

Will: There’s obvious overlaps with all of this, with conversion rate optimization, right? This specific example, "Would you trust medical information from this site," is one that I’ve seen Google refer to.

Rand: Yeah, I saw that.

Will: They talk about it a lot because I think it’s the classic rebuttal to bad content. Would you want bad medical content around you? Yeah, okay. Obviously, again only applies if you’re . . .

Rand: You can swap out medical information with whatever type is . . .

Will: Actually, I would just say, "Would you trust information from this site?" And just say, "Would you trust it?"

Rand: If we were using it on moz, we might say, "Would you trust web marketing information? Would you trust SEO information? Would you trust analytics information?"

Will: Are these guys domain experts in your opinion? This is almost the same thing. Would you recognize this site as an authority? This again has so much in it, because if you send somebody to Nike.com, no matter what the website is, they’re probably going to say yes because of the brand.

Rand: Right.

Will: If you send somebody to a website they’ve never heard of, a lot of this comes down to design.

Rand: Yes. Well, I think this one comes down to . . .

Will: I think an awful lot of it does.

Rand: A lot of this comes down to design, and authority is really branding familiarity. Have I heard of this site? Does it seem legitimate? So I might get to a great blog like StuntDouble.com, and I might think to myself, I’m not very familiar with the world of web marketing. I haven’t heard of StuntDouble, so I don’t recognize him as an authority, but yeah, I would probably trust SEO information from this site. It looks good, seems authentic, the provider’s decent.

Will: Yeah.

Rand: So there’s kind of that balance.

Will: Again, it’s very hard to know what people are thinking when they’re answering these questions, but the degree of agreement is . . .

Rand: Is where you get something. So let’s talk about Mechanical Turk, just to end this up. You take these questions and put them through a process using Mechanical Turk.

Will: So I actually used something called SmartSheet.com, which is essentially a little bit like Google Doc spreadsheets. It’s very similar to Google Doc spreadsheets, but it has an interface with Mechanical Turk. So you can just literally put the column headings as the questions. Then, each row you have the page that you want somebody to go to, the input, if you like.

Rand: The URL field.

Will: So SEOmoz.org/blog/whatever, and then you select how many rows you want, click submit to Mechanical Turk, and it creates a task on Mechanical Turk for each row independently.

Rand: Wow. So it’s just easy as pie.

Will: Yeah, it’s dead simple. This whole thing, putting together the questionnaire and gathering it the first time, took me 20 minutes.

Rand: Wow.

Will: I paid $0.50 an answer, which is probably slightly more than I would have had to, but I wanted answers quickly. I said, "I need them returned in an hour," and I said, "I want you to maybe have a quick look around the website, not just gut feel. Have a quick look around." I did it for 20, got it back in an hour, cost me 10 bucks.

Rand: My God, this is the most dirt cheap form of market research for improving your website that I can think of.

Will: It’s simple but it’s effective.

Rand: It’s amazing, absolutely amazing. Wow. I hope lots of people adopt this philosophy. I hope, Will, you’ll jump into the Q&A if people have questions about this process.

Will: I will. I will post some extra information, yeah, definitely.

Rand: Excellent. And thank you so much for joining us.

Will: Anytime.

Rand: And thanks to all of you. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Will: Bye.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Facebook Launches Online Education Center For Businesses

Google+, Google+, Google+! The folks at Facebook must be sick and tired of hearing about Google’s new entry into social networking. Well, the social media giant is hitting Google back right where it hurts. Google’s failure to have pages for businesses has been well documented. To make that pain a little worse, Facebook has launched Facebook.com/Business.

Facebook Business resized 600

According to an Inc.com article, a Facebook spokesperson said, “Facebook allows small businesses to create rich social experiences, build lasting relationships and amplify the most powerful type of marketing—word of mouth. We created Facebook.com/Business to make it even easier for people to reach these objectives and grow.”

It is clear that Facebook and other social media companies are growing up and working on refining their monetization strategy. Facebook understands that for it to generate revenue from not only major brands but also small business owners it has to provide education for businesses. While much of the information is pretty basic, especially if you have already read some of our Facebook Marketing ebooks, it is valuable information for businesses that are new to Facebook. Especially valuable is the information and walk-through content that Facebook provides around its advertising platform.

Marketing Takeaway

Facebook is an important part of a successful social media marketing campaign, regardless if you are a B2C or B2B company. It is important to get the basics right, which include setting up a Facebook Page. Once you have the basics down, be sure to test other aspects of Facebook marketing, including their advertising platform, to determine how it works for your business. Stay on the look-out for more social networks working harder to cater to business users.

What do you think of Facebook’s new resources?

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5 Tips for Meeting Online Friends IRL

Posted by Dr. Pete

Dr. Pete and GianlucaSocial media is a bit of a paradox – we have more “friends” than ever, but our relationships feel more and more superficial. When we retreat to the comfort of the internet, we introverts have even less incentive to get to know people IRL (In Real Life, for those who don’t spend all day on the internet). If you know me online, it may surprise you to hear that I consider myself a recovering introvert. I’m also a work-at-home father of a 1-year-old, so I’m lucky to hit one SEO conference a year.

In honor of being in Seattle for Mozcon this week, I’d like to share 5 tips for how I’ve managed to make social media count and turn online relationships into real, offline friendships and business partnerships. Just to illustrate the point, that’s a picture of me with SEOmoz enthusiast and fellow proud dad Gianluca Fiorelli, who I finally got to meet in person today (thanks to Rudy Lopez for snapping the picture).

1. Get to Know People

If you only see your online friends as a way to get more Likes and +1s or water your Farmville crops when you’re out of town, you’ll never develop a real-life connection. Building any lasting relationship starts with sincerity. I think that 80% of my own success comes from the fact that I genuinely like people. Social media blurs the lines between work and personal life, and it’s a tremendous opportunity to get to know more about people’s lives outside of work.

2. Be a White-hat Stalker

Social media is also an amazing way to keep track of people, especially with real-time information like Twitter and FourSquare. Sometimes, all it takes is paying attention and knowing when you and your online friends will be in the same place at the same time. A couple of years ago, I was on Twitter and noticed that an industry friend was visiting the Google office in Chicago, just a few blocks from my condo. I pinged him, and two hours later we were having a beer together.

I’m not suggesting that you actually stalk people and show up uninvited to wherever they check in. White-hat stalking is about finding opportunity in the fact that many people in our industry spend a lot of time on the road. Sometimes, an online friend from across the country or even the other side of the globe just happens to be in town. Sometimes, you’re going to the same event, and may not even realize it. It’s all about paying attention.

3. Pre-arrange a Meetup

If you are going to an event, especially a large conference, it’s easy to assume that meeting people will just naturally happen. Conferences are big events and 2-4 days can go by in a flash. If you’re going to be at an event, let people know. It may feel self-indulgent, but announce online that you’re going. If you leave meeting up to chance, you’re going to miss a lot of people. Arrange a meetup – it could be dinner the night before the event, or it could just be making sure you find each other at the after-party. Don’t overthink it – a simple “Hey, I’m in Session A3 – where are you?” on Twitter works wonders.

4. Don’t Miss a Chance

When an opportunity does come along to meet someone IRL, don’t pass it up. Not to keep picking on Gianluca, but when he arrived at the hotel yesterday he tweeted that he was down in the lobby. At a relatively small, 3-day conference, it’s easy to assume that we’d have plenty of chances to meet up, but instead I told him to wait a minute, grabbed my room key, and jumped in the elevator. I can’t count the number of times I saw someone I wanted to meet, thought “They look busy, I’m sure I’ll see them later” and then didn’t. Don’t miss your chance.

5. Act Like an Extrovert

I hate the phrase “Fake it ‘til you make it” because of that one word – fake. It’s taken me a long time to accept that there’s a huge difference between deliberately being fake and acting the way you’d like to act, even if it’s a bit out of character. If you’re outgoing online, you’d probably like to be a little more outgoing IRL. So, why not try it on for size? No one online knows that you’re secretly terrified of your own shadow. These days, when I recognize an online friend, I approach them like we’ve known each other forever. It’s amazing what a difference that makes.

To the introverts out there, I’d just like to end by saying that many of the people in this industry that you think are social animals are closet introverts themselves. One of my favorite industry posts of all time is Lisa Barone’s introvert confession back in 2008. Even social media professionals struggle with actually being social IRL. If you’re at Mozcon, don’t be afraid to say “hi” – I only bite when I haven’t been fed.

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5 Steps to Spelling Out E-M-A-I-L

how to spell email

This is a guest blog post written by Jim Ducharme, a social media professional and online marketing consultant who helps companies use an integrated approach to their online marketing. You can read more of his thoughts on social and marketing at: www.hugehead.ca.

There’s nothing I love more than a good acronym and so a while back I set out to create one for the word “email” in order to help people remember some of the key points to an effective email marketing campaign. I hope it offers a little inspiration for your integrated email marketing efforts.

E – Engaging

Relevant content sent at the right time is key to getting that click and conversion. It’s not just the right item at the right time either. It’s also about showing your subscribers that you are tuned into what is going on around you. Set up a content calendar to use as guide and inspiration to better relate to your email marketing subscribers.

M – Mobile

This year has been hailed as the year of mobile marketing and with smartphone sales growth predicted to double in the next five years, that’s not a bad call. You should be offering a mobile friendly newsletter, but you should also be thinking differently for your mobile subscribers.

When technology is mobile, how people interact with it and when changes – timing can be everything. For example, if you are hitting people during the commute, you might have better luck because they are looking for a distraction while on the train. If you are sending on Saturday you might want to change the message drastically because people are more relaxed and focused on leisure and family. Relevance as it relates to the subscriber, time and day becomes even more critical with mobile.

A – Action

How strong and clear are your calls-to-action? What do you want people to do when they get your email marketing newsletter? The answer seems obvious, but is it? Yes, conversion is the end objective, but how? What’s the plan Stan? If you aren’t clear on the objective, your subscribers certainly won’t be.

I – Integration

Email is just one social media channel and smart marketers cross promote their email marketing across all. Every bit of content in your email newsletter should have share buttons adjacent them and you should be using social media channels to promote your newsletter. Tease the content before you send via (for example) Twitter and run excerpts via places such as Facebook, just to name two.

L – Landing Page

Landing page optimization is one of the most important components of a successful email marketing campaign. Landing pages should be uncluttered and have a strong call-to-action. Don’t make people think about what you want them to do when they get there! Don’t force them to go hunting for the related item you were promoting in your newsletter either! Keep the focus of the page tight and create as many landing pages as you need for each objective to keep it that way. I would also suggest you create unique landing pages for potential new subscribers coming from links on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for example.

Spelling out email in your marketing program can help you to drive sales and build revenue, reduce marketing costs, and boost brand awareness and credibility.  How do you spell e-m-a-i-l in your company?

Image credit: Sean MacEntee

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On average, email tests can help improve lead generation campaigns by up to 20%.

Download the free eBook to increase your email clickthrough rates, opt-ins and conversions.

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Getting Stuff Done by Video

Posted by PhilNottingham

Hi SEOmozzers! I’m Phil Nottingham and I’ve recently joined Distilled as an in-house pirate. This is my first SEOmoz post and I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!
 

The Conundrum

 
Creating detailed and actionable client reports has become a vitally important skill for any agency SEO to hone. Often we’ll spend 20-30 hours composing a veritable treat of a read for our clients, a hand crafted sluice for a torrent of brilliant ideas, delegations, and requests that will certainly lead to a better performance in the SERPs once put into practice… but, as we’re all painfully aware, sending over these floods of text and screenshots often fails to get stuff done. It seems that often these reports get stuck in the quagmire of uncompleted items lurking at the bottom of our clients inboxes for weeks; to end up competing with a perpetual inundation of other requests, constantly clamouring for attention and requiring immediate action. And it’s no surprise that these reports often fail to make the impact we have in mind for them.
 
Consider a typical reading list for a web marketing type on a Monday morning. It’s probably going to look something like this:
 
  • Emails
  • Blog feeds
  • Google Reader – News & Articles.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
If you’re anything like me, this list is going to feature well in excess of a hundred items, the vast majority of which you will only skim read and deal with quickly. As technology thunders on, accelerating global connectivity and productivity on an exponential scale, this brevity and superficiality of attention span is likely only to expand; threatening the practical viability of our beautifully crafted and detailed client reports.
 

How Can We Communicate Detailed Concepts and Suggestions to our Clients More Effectively?

 
The obvious answer is to do more phone-calls, lunches, video-conferences and direct face to face communication with the client so you can explain things and answer questions when you have their full attention available. However, most clients are typically busy and over-loaded people like us, sometimes based in different time-zones, making this approach rarely feasible.
 
At Distilled, client reports were taken to the shearers a while back. It’s now company-wide policy to send out succinct, simple, bare-bones reports a maximum of 3-4 pages long, which focus purely on the actionable and achievable aspects of all the findings from our 20-30 hours of research.
 
But just recently, we’ve also started trying out a more creative method of communicating complicated tasks and ideas to our clients and colleagues – demonstrating our thoughts and suggestions through recorded video.
 
Without going into too much detail, below is an eloquent summary of our findings so far from my colleague Tom Anthony:
 
Written reports – 20-30 pages = very little shit gets done
Distilled reports – 3-4 pages of actions = lots of shit gets done
Video report  - video(s) + 1 page summary w/checklist = masses of shit gets completely annihilated  
 

Why Go To The Effort?

 
There are some unique benefits of using video to communicate with clients as a supplement to email and telephone calls…. 
 

1. It’s different and fun

Video doesn’t feel like as much of a chore to plough through as emails or reports and this helps it to stick out from the remaining mass of inbox clutter and generate interest.
 

2.  It’s a great teaching environment

If you’re client is not particularly SEO savvy, video is an efficient and easy way to practically explain some of the basic principles driving the ranking factors.
 

3.    Clients can’t skim read a video

You cannot skip through a video as innocuously as you can skim through an email or document; it requires conscious effort to avoid.
 

4.     It’s easy and quick to make

If you become practiced and efficient at making videos, it can be an extremely fast process and take less time than composing a long email.
 

5.      You can demonstrate complicated technical issues as if explaining them in person

It can be easier to explain complicated design and technical considerations with screencasts and diagrams, rather than through extensive writing and annotated screenshots. Problems with UI and design are often better looked at than talked about.
 

6.      It can be edited

As with an email, but unlike a phone-call or video conferencing; a video allows you time to consider your response and suggestions before sending it.
 

7.      It lives on after it’s been created

Unlike a phone-call or VC, videos can be watched back by multiple people at their leisure. This can be a great way to help clients and as can keep the video for future reference, as well as showing it quickly to colleagues.
 

8.      It can be rapport building

Videos can also be a fantastic tool for building rapport with your client.  If they happen to live a long way away and are on different time zones, so you’ve never met, allowing them to see your face and hear your voice on a regular basis is a great way of building trust and mutual understanding. You can also convey emotion through video where you would struggle in formalised written word.
 

9.    It’s not Rocket Science

 While is fantastic to have a top-of-the-range camera and microphone to work with, you can still create relatively high quality videos with modest resources.
 
This…
 

 
Was recorded and uploaded using this…
 
 
 
 

Common Pitfalls When Making Videos 

 
Although videos can be an incredibly useful resource when integrated into a holistic approach to communication, it is incredibly easy to undo the potential benefits videos offer…
 
1.   Thinking Video Can Work for Everything
 
I’m not suggesting here that video is an all an out solution for all communication, but rather that it works when included in a holistic approach encompassing email, phone-calls and traditional reports. Video is particularly valuable when you don’t have the opportunity to meet with your client and explain things to them in the flesh, such as with International SEO, but it doesn’t replace traditional methods of communication.
 

2.   Lack of Clarity

The best thing about email and reports is that they can be edited down to succinct actions points, which cut out the prognostication and deliberation populating everyday phone-calls and conversations. To make effective instructional and informational videos – always stick to the point at hand and avoid meandering tangents. Videos are only valuable in as much as they maintain an audience’s interest.
 

3.      Inability to hone in on specific points

If you’re going to end up putting your video on YouTube, then an interactive transcript can be used to allow your client to skip to relevant points within the video. If not, then creating a contents list with corresponding time-codes for your video can be a great aid for efficient viewing.
 

4.      Low Quality

Having good picture quality and clear audio is essential when producing a video. Especially when discussing complicated technical processes, there cannot be any compromise on this. Ensure you record all content at high resolution and avoid microphone interference.
 

5.      Difficult to work out actionable tips

Clients aren’t going to want to watch through your videos multiple times and transcribe the point you make in order to ascertain appropriate action points. Whenever you send a video, ensure it comes complete with a list of jobs to be undertaken, which you’re client can study while watching your presentation. This will focus their mind to the practical essentials of what you are trying to say and ensure stuff gets done.
 

How to Convert a Written Report into a Video Report


 
  1.  Decide the form appropriate form the different parts of your report should take – which bits are best shown through a screencast and which bits would work best with a whiteboard Friday style talking head presentation?
  2. Convert your report into a script, removing any descriptive passages which can be displayed visually – If it makes sense within the context of your report; write a script for multiple videos covering a single subject on each one. Six 5-minute long videos are easier to digest than one 30-minute video.
  3. Practice speaking through your script in time with your screencast a couple of times before recording, ensuring you cut out any “umms” or “likes” opting for pauses any time you are unsure what to say.
  4. When recording, always talk slightly slower than you would in everyday conversation, as the nuances of corporeal expression are inevitably lost through the cables of a microphone — Speak at the speed where it just starts to feel uncomfortably slow. In most cases, when you listen back to your recording, you’ll be surprised how slow it doesn’t feel.
  5. For any talking head passages of your recording, always look straight into the lens of the camera.
  6. After recording, trim out any sections which lag or feel unnecessary to make the overall points.
  7. Add zooms, markers and annotations where necessary.
  8. Export your content to video and upload to a cloud hosting service if necessary.
  9. Creative an executive summary of the key points in text and create a contents checklist for your client to use to navigate to relevant points in the video(s).

Examples:

 
Last week Rand published a blog titled The Best Kept Secret in the SEOmoz Toolset, which explains how to access the new SERPs analysis tool. I’ve taken the process he explained through text and diagrams and put together a tutorial video which works towards the same purpose. Using Rand’s post as a script, this video took roughly 10 minutes to make using Camtasia for Mac. 
 

 
Do you find it easier to watch through the video or read through the post? Please let me know your thoughts!

If anyone would like to see further practical demonstrations of turning a written report into a movie, then i invite you to email me over your content (phil.nottingham@distilled.net) and i will use the above formula to convert it into a video and share it in the comments section.
 
If you’re interested to know more about the practical process for making awesome videos, please check out a post I created a the Distilled blog last month –  Creating Awesome Videos for SEO.
 

 

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